‘The smell is unbearable': Mpumalanga hospital outpatients have to queue next to mortuary

Some patients who collect medication at KwaMhlanga Hospital’s pharmacy in Mpumalanga alleged they are affected by seeing dead bodies of people being delivered and collected at this open door of the mortuary.
Some patients who collect medication at KwaMhlanga Hospital’s pharmacy in Mpumalanga alleged they are affected by seeing dead bodies of people being delivered and collected at this open door of the mortuary.
PHOTO: Warren Mabona/News24
  • Patients say they can't stand the bad smell that comes from the main door of the hospital’s forensic pathology services building.
  • They say they are also affected by seeing dead bodies of people being delivered and collected at the main door of the mortuary while standing in a queue.
  • The Mpumalanga health department says it is in the process of moving the pharmacy further away from the mortuary.

Some of the dozens of outpatients who regularly visit KwaMhlanga Hospital’s pharmacy in Mpumalanga to collect their medication have expressed concern that they always have to endure a bad smell that allegedly comes from the door of the forensic pathology services building.

The building that houses the hospital’s pharmacy is situated opposite the building of the forensic pathology services. The doors of the two buildings are separated by a distance of about 15 metres. People who collect medication stand or sit on chairs in in a queue on the verandah of the pharmacy near the mortuary. 

Outpatient Jimmy Twala told News24 that the bad smell emanated from the main door of the mortuary building. He said he was also disturbed by frequently seeing grief-stricken people crying hysterically when they stepped out of the mortuary building after identifying the bodies of their loved ones.

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"That smell is unbearable and I think it comes from decomposed human bodies," said Twala.

I recently stood in a long queue for a long time. I became hungry but could not eat fruit or snacks because of that bad smell. This mortuary is very close to us and it makes me feel the pain felt by families who come here to identify the bodies of their loved ones. I also see families performing rituals to take the spirits of their dead loved ones inside that door while standing here. I’m appealing to the hospital management to move this pharmacy far away from the mortuary because I don’t want to see these things.

Another patient, Nomvula Skhosana, told News24 that it was also difficult for her to often see dead bodies delivered or removed from the mortuary facility, while queuing up to the pharmacy. She said she also visited the hospital’s pharmacy every month to collect medication.

"I’m sensitive to the sight of dead bodies, even if they are covered with sheets," said Skhosana.

"The smell that comes from that door makes me weak. Most of the people whose bodies are delivered here have died of unnatural causes, such as murder and car accidents. I get worried whenever I see their bodies and ask myself, why they have died. Seeing bodies every time I come here affects me badly."

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When News24 visited the hospital this week, a forensic pathology services bakkie was parked next to the main door of the mortuary, which was wide open. There were a few empty body stretchers inside the delivery and collection area of the mortuary. A smell of decomposition hung in the air near the pharmacy’s queuing area, but it was not immediately clear where it came from.

Mpumalanga health department spokesperson Dumisani Malamule said they were aware of the issue and were in the process of addressing what he described as a "challenge" at KwaMhlanga Hospital.

"The specification has been done. The department is busy with the processes for the removal of the pharmacy waiting area to another side, [which is far] away from the mortuary," he said.

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